Kirsten Dierolf, team coach and founder of Solutions Academy gives her top four tips for helping women own and master their own careers.

Kirsten Dierolf, a credited team coach with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and founder of Solutions Academy has almost 30 years of experience as a qualified coach, with experience coaching individuals and teams globally in several industries including technology clients. Kirsten follows a ‘solutions focused’ approach and her coaching techniques are centred on tactics that can help to navigate these challenges and help people become impactful leaders.

Kirsten says, “Sometimes you can’t afford to wait for the rules of the game to change and you must play by your own. While this is easier said than done, there are ways that you can be the most effective voice in the room, without having to fall into the trap of being the loudest.”

Focus on the desired outcomes

Defining a solution comes from truly understanding what outcome you would like to achieve, and so by taking the time to outline your desired goal, you can work on creating a solution to reach your end goal, instead of focusing on the issue, or problems. For example, if a project is in trouble and you have a meeting to solve the problems at hand, there is a risk of defensiveness and “blame-storming” rather than brainstorming. Instead of asking “what went wrong?”, it is better to motivate teams by asking what are the positive steps that will turn the situation around, when these will be noticed and by whom. If the discussion is still centred on what went wrong, comment in the direction of: “okay, what we’d like instead is…” This way, you can guide the conversation into a positive goal-driven action, and help the team get a deeper understanding of your overall mission.

Stay out of “yes, but” games

Working out how to successfully handle disagreements or concerns about ideas will also be a defining point in overcoming uncertainty. Sometimes meetings can become unhelpful as one person will say something, and another will contradict. By changing one simple word, ‘but’, you can transform the direction of concern from a negative into a positive, from realising a problem, to delivering a solution. For example, if your team was brainstorming how they might be able to integrate a new product into the business, and there were concerns about doing so, you should swap your reaction from, “yes, but it might cost a lot,” to “yes, we should look at the benefits it will bring, compared to what we have now.” So, instead of contradicting people directly, build on their ideas and even when you have concerns, voicing them this way will ensure that you are heard more clearly.

Make incremental change visible

Most changes happen over time and not as a revolution. As this is a slow process, the small improvements that are happening over time are often forgotten. People start focusing on what doesn’t yet exist rather than focusing on what is already there. While both viewpoints are correct, it is much more motivating to build on an existing platform and become even better than it is to feel as a failure because you are not yet at the end point. It’s important to keep morale and motivation high. By scaling achievements based on end goals, it is possible to acknowledge the wins, re-focus and re-energise the team to continue along the scale until the end-goal is met. For example, if you know you’re at stage five on the scale, you can shift focus to the next small achievement and build toward the 10.

Experiments help consensus

Sometimes meetings go on for longer than they need to because they are concentrated on finding the ‘right’ decision and people are afraid of being held accountable if it is not. If you frame meetings as an ‘experimental’ session and build in a scheduled evaluation, you might shorten the discussions and reach the desired outcome. You could mention the best two or three solutions and ask which is the one to try out first. That way you get out of “yes, but” games and no one has to leave the meeting as the “loser”. Even if the experiment is not based on your solution, you can give it a shot, knowing that if it does not work, you can suggest your solution as an alternative.

Overall, solutions focused coaching centres on what is desired, as opposed to what isn’t, and it can enable to you to build on these successes. Kirsten adds, “These solution focused tactics can be very useful to build your reputation as a productive team member and team leader. Instead of holding yourself back, questioning your abilities or understanding, you can use step-by-step communication methods to overcome any feelings uncertainty.